SEATTLE -- An operator of an oil trucking firm was convicted Thursday of orchestrating the killings of two business rivals competing for work in North Dakota's Bakken Oil Patch, prosecutors said.
A jury in federal court in Richland, in southeastern Washington state, convicted James Henrikson of hiring a man to kill Kristopher "KC" Clarke in February 2012 in North Dakota and Douglas Carlile in December 2013 in Spokane, Wash.
Henrikson, who lived in Watford City, N.D., operated the Blackstone trucking company. He faces the possibility of life in prison when he is sentenced on May 24 in Spokane, they said.
Three men who prosecutors say arranged and carried out the contract killings, and pleaded guilty to a host of federal charges, testified at Henrikson's trial, which began on Jan. 25.
The jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict on all 10 counts of murder-for-hire and conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder-for-hire, and one count of conspiring to distribute heroin, after little more than a day of deliberations beginning Wednesday.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington confirmed the guilty verdict but declined to comment.
Federal prosecutors used four weeks worth of witness testimony, as well as records of cellphone conversations, firearm purchases, and business documents to portray Henrikson as a vindictive businessman bent on subduing several people he viewed as an impediment to his enterprises.
Prosecutors argued that Henrikson wanted to kill Douglas Carlile, an investor who refused to give up his stake in an oil lease and that Carlile owed Henrikson money. Carlile was shot multiple times at close range in his Spokane home.
Henrikson told several of his trucking company employees that he was outraged by Clarke's plans to start or join a competing trucking firm and that he had "betrayed his loyalty," court documents said.
Court records say Clarke was beaten to death at a shop near Mandaree, N.D. Clarke’s body has not been found. His vehicle was found near Williston, N.D., about two months after he disappeared.
In September, Timothy Suckow, a man Henrikson hired to carry out the murders and paid $20,000, pleaded guilty to killing the two men, court documents show. Another man, Robert Delao, also pleaded guilty to helping to arrange Carlile's murder by acting as a middleman between Henrikson and Suckow, among other charges.
A third man, Lazaro Pesina, who was at Carlile's house when he was killed, pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering, court documents show.
Suckow faces up to 30 years in prison, Delao could be sentenced to 14-17 years, and Pesina could face 12 years.
A jury trial is set for May 10 in Bismarck for Sarah Creveling, Henrikson’s ex-wife and business partner, on federal charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.
Attorneys for Henrikson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Henrikson admitted in a September plea agreement to the murder-for-hire plot. A trial was scheduled after a U.S. judge in eastern Washington granted Henrikson's request to withdraw his guilty plea in November because he was not made aware of the mandatory minimum penalty of life imprisonment prior to entering his guilty plea, court documents showed.
Forum News Service contributed to this report.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Alistair Bell and Andrew Hay)